2020 20 – Jews Rejecting Attacks on Labour

Jewish Voice For Labour Statement

JVL have written to all candidates for leader/deputy about the Board of Deputies (BoD) ten pledges to prevent free speech. There are appropriately different introductions for those who have signed; those who haven’t signed (Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler); and those who position hasn’t been clarified in the media (Rosena Allin-Khan and Angela Rayner).

We would like to draw your attention to some implications of endorsing the BoD’s pledges.

  1. Handing over crucial elements of implementation of party rules to outside bodies would undermine the independence of the party.
  2. Demands such as setting time limits for the completion of discipline procedures would depart from the principles of natural justice and due process ((an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, procedures which give an accused individual a fair hearing, fair representation and a right to appeal).
  3. The demands would compromise data protection obligations. As the general secretary has pointed out in a related context, the party has “very strict responsibilities under GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 to safeguard members’ data and ensure it is processed only for clearly defined and lawful purposes.”
  4. The insistence on putting the Jewish Labour Movement in control of educational input deprives the party of agency in determining how and by whom its members are to be educated. Furthermore, this was an organisation that refused to campaign for the Labour Party in the 2019 election.
  5. The Board of Deputies is asking that you disregard the views of Jews with whom they disagree, singling out Jewish Voice for Labour even though it represents significant numbers of Jewish members of the Labour Party. We remind you that the Board does not represent all Jews. Most significantly it does not represent many thousands in the fast-growing Charedi community, most of whom do not believe that the Labour Party is riddled with antisemitism and have put on record their alarm at the suggestion that it is.

Undertakings such as those called for by the BoD are not within the gift of an aspiring leader of a democratic party in which rules are made by the members through their conference (and National Executive Committee). Endorsing the BoD pledges will be interpreted by the bulk of members as contemptuous of the independence of the party and a threat to their right to a legitimate, legally defensible process in the event of being accused of breaching party rules.

They are also demands that, in the view of many respected commentators and activists, retard rather than advance the cause of combating antisemitism (prejudice and discrimination against Jewish people) as part of a broad anti-racist campaign.

We urge you carefully to review the implications of these pledges and take into consideration the range of views within the party, including the knowledge and experience of hundreds of Jews represented by our organisation, who campaigned actively for Labour in GE2019, regardless of the stance of the particular candidates standing in their constituencies.

We would respectfully ask you to assure members that, as leader, you would abide by the party’s agreed policy with respect to rights for Palestinians, opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and an end to the siege of Gaza, and that you will stand by the caveats recommended by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in 2016 which protect free speech on these principles of human rights.